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Defense Soaps: Wrestling With A New Product That’s Not Just For Wrestlers

Guy Sako likes a good defense. After all, he’s a father and a wrestling coach, as well as a Cleveland Police Officer. A good defense is critical in all three of those occupations. Yet after many years of coaching, Sako became increasingly alarmed at the lack of defense his wrestlers’ bodies had against some of the smallest opponents they would ever face – bacteria and fungi.

Wrestlers come into more physical, skin to skin, contact with opponents than participants of any other sport. Skin to skin, skin to mat, skin to wrestling gear and towels and virtually everything associated with this, perhaps the sweatiest of all sports. Wrestlers become physically intimate with an opponent and whatever that opponent has on his or her body is going home with the other wrestler, like it or not.

That’s the simple rule of hot, sweaty skin to hot, sweaty skin contact: Any bacterial or fungal infection on one body will be transferred to the other. Wrestlers commonly come down with infections like impetigo and ringworm. Sako didn’t think it had to be so. He began researching why wrestlers and fighters commonly catch these skin infections.

“Understanding the balance between normal skin flora and good hygiene has puzzled wrestlers and fighters for decades,” Sako says. “A false sense of security is placed on the notion that wrestling on clean mats will protect us from skin infections.”

“The normal skin flora is made up of the bacteria that normally live on the skin when the skin is healthy,” Sako says. “These bacteria, which are harmless, actually prevent other harmful bacteria and fungus from growing on the skin. These normal bacteria are disturbed with over-washing with antibacterial soaps and the use of antibiotics.”

“As coaches, wrestlers, and fighters we know that we have to clean ourselves after competition or training. During the season, we may shower as many as three times a day. And most of us use over the counter antibacterial soap, in a bar or liquid,” Sako offers. While working hard to keep themselves clean, wrestlers were actually making themselves more susceptible to infections.

Research is now suggesting that many mothers may be doing the same to their children. The latest antibacterial chemical soaps may be making us too clean. The Defense solution to this dilemma, to clean us without destroying the superficial bacteria natural to our epidermis, applies to every walk of life and activity, not just wrestling.

“At Defense Soap, we researched the Catch 22 of needing to be clean but not wanting to eliminate our normal skin flora. We believe the proper mind set is to use a soap whose all-natural ingredients have been clinically proven to have antifungal and antibacterial properties. We still have to clean every mat, every piece of training equipment, and every body, but we do it naturally, leaving some of our natural defenses in place and at work.”

Those of us who don’t regularly find ourselves face down on a mat with a sweaty gorilla on our backs can use Defense products too. Any occupation or hobby that involves getting sweaty and dirty qualifies us to use a Defense soap rather than a typical ‘chemical based’ antibacterial that actually leaves us more vulnerable to infections instead of less. Fishermen, whether commercial or for sport, commonly get themselves covered in some kind of guts. Gardeners typically get dirty and sweaty. Kids of all ages need healthy cleaning alternatives for the grime they pick up in everyday activities. Anyone who has worked out at a gym knows what it’s like to slip into an exercise machine recently vacated by a three-hundred pound gorilla with a sweat gland problem. Construction workers, youth sports programs, travelers to the tropics, weekend warriors, the list is endless. We all need a more natural way to keep ourselves clean without wiping out our natural protections.

Using the chemical antimicrobial soaps offered us in the general marketplace today will not protect us much longer, if they do at all now. Led by Professor Gerry Wright, chair of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, McMaster University, a research team found the numerous ways soil-dwelling bacteria become resistant to antibiotics are identical to the resistance patterns seen in patients. Their conclusion was antibiotic resistance has become an increasing public health concern because the organisms that cause infections in humans and animals are becoming less receptive to the healing aspect of antibiotic drugs.

“By evolving in an environment of antibiotic production, incredibly resilient bacteria must develop diverse ways to survive or resist the toxic antimicrobial compounds produced by their neighbors,” said Wright. Researchers screened 480 strains of soil bacteria isolated from diverse locations for resistance to 21 clinically relevant antibiotics. At high drug concentrations, the soil-dwelling bacteria displayed a remarkable level of resistance. Not only were the bacteria resistant to an average of between seven and eight antibiotics, but every strain was found to be multi-drug resistant. This is the same plain old dirt that you garden in and your kids play, wrestle, and roll around in.

If you travel to the tropics, you can expect to be exposed to a wide variety of antibiotic resistant microbes – both bacterial and fungal. The American Accreditation Health Care Commission estimates 15 - 45% of short-term travelers experience a health problem associated with their trip. Today virtually any place in the world can be reached within 36 hours, less than the incubation period for most infectious diseases. Be prepared to carry and use effective antifungal and antibacterial agents.

Fishermen often contract a condition known as "crayfish handler’s disease" or "seal finger". The bacteria gain entry to the skin via abrasions, lacerations or fissures and cause a painful itching or burning sensation. Swelling occurs and the joints of the finger become stiff and painful. Use of a natural antimicrobial that doesn’t strip your skin of its naturally protective bacteria may be a more effective solution than using a chemical antimicrobial which cleans your hands so thoroughly it leaves them a fertile field for new infections that are resistant to antibiotics.

In her study “Hygiene of the Skin: When Is Clean Too Clean?” Elaine Larson, Columbia University School of Nursing in New York, says “For over a century, skin hygiene, particularly of the hands, has been accepted as a primary mechanism to control the spread of infectious agents. Although the causal link between contaminated hands and infectious disease transmission is one of the best-documented phenomena in clinical science, several factors have recently prompted a reassessment of skin hygiene and its effective practice.

“Even with use of antiseptic preparations, which substantially reduce counts of hand flora, no reductions beyond an equilibrium level are attained. The numbers of organisms spread from the hands of nurses who washed frequently with an antimicrobial soap actually increased after a period of time; this increase is associated with declining skin health. In a recent survey, nurses with damaged hands were twice as likely to be colonized with S. hominis, S. aureus, gram-negative bacteria, enterococci, and Candida spp. and had a greater number of species colonizing the hands.

“The trend in both the general public and among health-care professionals toward more frequent washing with detergents, soaps, and antimicrobial ingredients needs careful reassessment in light of the damage done to skin and resultant increased risk for harboring and transmitting infectious agents. More washing and scrubbing are unlikely to be better and may, in fact, be worse. The goal should be to identify skin hygiene practices that provide adequate protection from transmission of infecting agents while minimizing the risk for changing the ecology and health of the skin and increasing resistance in the skin flora.”

This is the area of protection where Defense Soaps products truly shine. Defense Soaps offers a line of products that include bar soap, body wipes, shower gel, and essential oils – all with proven antifungal and antibacterial properties that will not defoliate all the helpful flora on your skin while ridding you of the harmful ones.

Defense sales are through a few Internet sites: Those of you in the western United States can visit Vashon Organics ( to order Defense products. Anyone in the eastern US should order from the Defense home website (

Don’t be dissuaded because you or your kids are not training as wrestlers or professional fighters. The fight against skin infections is one we all have to join. When washing our hands with chemical antibacterial soaps is accomplishing the reverse of what we want – leaving us more vulnerable instead of protecting us from infections -- Defense Soaps offers us a natural first line of defense that doesn’t leave us increasingly vulnerable. And best of all? We don’t have to have a gorilla on our back to use Defense Soap.

About the Author: Steve Reed is Senior Partner at Vashon Organics, an online distributor of organic and natural personal care products. He is also the author of PEBBLING THE WALK; SURVIVING CANCER CAREGIVING, a book for caregivers. Reed’s experience includes technical writing, healthcare writing, non-fiction, novels, and journalism.

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